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Some memorable memoirs of 2017

I read a lot of memoirs. So many, in fact, that I sometimes forget which ones I’ve read and start reading them again (yep, it goes with that time of life too). It’s rare that I put a memoir aside, but when I do, I don’t even review it. I cannot justify reviewing books I haven’t finished. But I do, occasionally, read books, love them and then forget them until doing this sort of thing. I recently posted a whole list of memoirs on Twitter, particularly those I enjoyed in 2017, but I know I missed out a couple of good ones, so I hope I can address that here.

I should say first off that two memoirs had me totally hooked: the first is John Le Carré’s The Pigeon Tunnel. I have long been a fan of his work and Absolute Friends is possibly among my all time favourite books ever, so I pounced on his collection of memoirs when it came out, and I was completely riveted to it. I’m so glad I bought the real book too as I know I’ll read it again. It’s just fascinating and of course, his writing is beautiful.

Here is the link to the book on the Book Depository, which is where I bought it.

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The other memoir that had me riveted was Cathy Curran’s Second Hand Scotch, a vivid, sometimes shocking, but always colourful and honest account of the author’s eclectic immigrant family.  My review of her book is here.

Apart from these two, though, I read several marvellous memoirs last year, some of which are reviewed on this blog, but as I only started using it for writing reviews halfway through the year, not all of them are included in the posts below. I would therefore like to give special mentions to the following (links are to my Amazon reviews):

Marjory McGinn’s  A Scorpion in the Lemon Tree

Jo Carroll’s Everlasting

Roger Distill’s Hints and Tips for Life with your Feet under Water (which, being a boater myself, I found fascinating).

Beth Haslam’s Fat Dogs and French Estates 3 (I can’t find my review, but I know it’s there somewhere in amongst the other 5* praise, all of which is justified!)

These four each stood out for me in a special way and I loved them – for their writing, their powers of description and also for what I could learn from them. My thanks to the authors for these wonderful books!

Now then, after a festive season full of fiction, I am back to reading memoirs, so watch this space for more reviews about my glimpses into the fascinating lives of the not so famous, but oh so courageous folk who make up this world.

Lastly, I’ve reposted a link to a review about Lucinda E Clarke’s fabulous short memoir about The Very Worst Riding School in the World. Do yourselves a favour and sign up to her newsletter to receive both parts for free. Part 1 is for sale on Amazon for $1, but for part 2, you need to subscribe to her email list. Happy reading!

 

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The very Worst Riding School in the World – Book 2 by Lucinda E Clarke

Before I do my first post of 2018, here’s a review of Lucinda Clarke’s delightful book about her ‘very worst riding school in the world’!

T. R. Robinson Publications

Image 23-12-2017 at 13.06As is clear from the title, this is the second part in this amusing and informative account of the author’s experiences during her unwitting ownership and running of a riding school in Africa.

Note 1: Details of where Book 1 may be obtained will be found at the end of this review.

Note 2!: The author has stated this – Book 2 – will only ever be available to her newsletter subscribers. Further information is provided at the end of this review.

Anyone who has read any of Lucinda E Clarke’s books will appreciate she is an excellent writer and conveys information, both factual and fictional, in a very readable style. This book is no exception. The style is light, easy and well paced, even the sadder moments are conveyed in a none too stressful manner. It is also evident the book has been efficiently edited.

The characters, young and…

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Memoir Review: Fresh Eggs and Dog Beds by Nick Albert

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I was lucky enough to receive this book as a prize in a draw and as I love the idea of moving to Ireland, I was looking forward to reading it.

Nick Albert and his wife make the decision to change their lives after Nick has a health scare that forces him to re-evaluate his life. The first half of the book is taken up with background on how they reached this point and then moves on to their hunt for a home in Ireland that would suit them. I enjoyed the accounts of their search and the people they met very much. I’ve only been on holiday to Ireland once, but I recognised the charm and friendliness as well as the quirky behaviour. In particular I can recall the crazy tailgating driving from when I was there. I well remember wondering why someone was glued to my tail on an almost empty rural road where they could have passed me at any of several places and laughed when I read how the author experienced this too.

The second half involves their move and how they settle into their new home with all the challenges it presents and I chuckled over the author’s dialogue with his wife on many an occasion. I think they were very brave to take on a property with so much that was rotting and falling apart, and I shall look forward to book 2 and the renovation. There is lots of gentle humour in the author’s style, which makes it a fun read and of course there are chickens (eventually) and dogs, both of which I love.

This memoir definitely made me want to go back to Ireland again, but I’ll probably just have to wait until Book 2 is out and go there vicariously.

Here is a link to the book on the  Amazon US site.

Memoir Review: Lion or The Long Way Home by Saroo Brierly

I only heard about this memoir a few days ago. I saw it recommended in one of my Twitter contacts’ (Terry Tyler) Best of 2017 books and after reading her review, I knew I had to buy it.
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This is the story of an incredible journey. Saroo Brierly was a tiny five-year-old boy from a poverty stricken, but close-knit family in a provincial town in India. His life was one of scratching a bare existence with his brothers and caring for his little sister while his mother was out working long hours as a labourer. One day he accidentally fell asleep on a train while waiting for his brother at the station. When he woke up, the train was moving and in fact, it didn’t stop until it reached Calcutta many hours later. Little Saroo had no idea where he’d come from and could find no one to help him get back. He lived a desperate and dangerous existence on Calcutta’s streets until good fortune in the form of a compassionate teenage boy brought him to the police, who took him to a large reception centre for lost children. When it then became clear there was no possibility of finding his family, Saroo was transferred to an orphanage where the organisers put his details out for adoption.

Saroo was a very lucky child as his adoptive parents were Australian and he was fortunate to be able to grow up in the beautiful and affluent environs of Hobart, Tasmania.  This could well have been the end of the story; indeed the accounts of his survival on Calcutta’s streets were heart stopping enough for anyone. However, for Saroo, it was only the start. As an adult, and after growing up in a near ideal world with wonderful parents, he finally decides to begin his search to find his home and family.

This book is the remarkable story of how he pieced together his memories and with the help of Google Earth and Facebook, he eventually pinpointed the town in western India where he started life. From the emotion of his discovery, to the anxiety of going back and finding his family, this astonishing young man takes the reader with him on every step of the journey. I was totally riveted.

The book is beautifully written with its simple, clear language and expression. What I found greatly refreshing was how balanced, honest and considerate Saroo was in his thoughtfulness to his Australian parents; how concerned he was about their feelings, but yet how determined he was to find that place on the map he came from and to let his Indian family know he was still alive. A number of serendipitous events finally led him to his mother’s door and the story of their reunion brought a lump to my throat.

The version I bought was a paperback, so I loved the few pages of colour photos in the middle of the book showing Saroo as a small child and as an adult with both his families. I am not surprised it has been made into a major film as stories like this have their own magic, but I don’t feel the need to see it myself. The descriptions of India that Saroo Brierly gives are so evocative I could smell the dust and the stench of the city and feel the heat and press of bodies. It is an immensely compelling and moving story; I couldn’t put it down once I’d started it, and I recommend very highly indeed. It gets an unequivocal five stars from me. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

PS There are several versions of the book on Amazon, so I’m not putting a link, but it’s easily available everywhere and I found the paperback was cheaper than the Kindle!

#ThrowbackThursday #BookReview – Under A Mackerel Sky: Rick Stein #memoir

Another great memoir review from Mrs Bloggs’ Books and one I shall be reading myself asap!

Mrs Bloggs The Average Reader

Throwback Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by Renee of It’s Book Talk blog and is a way of sharing older books or older reviews. Look out for other book bloggers taking part, including Jill from Jill’s Book Cafe

Published 2004 by Penguin

Source: My own copy

My Thoughts & Review

I’ve always enjoyed watching Rick Stein’s cookery programmes and still watch the old reruns of earlier ones with his dog Chalky.

What I particularly enjoy is Rick Stein’s easy relaxed style of chatting to people from all walks of life. Reading this memoir of his life made me realise exactly why he is like that because he has lived, often a very chequered life it has to be said but a very interesting and varied one.

Rick was from a relatively well off background and although his bipolar father had bouts of melancholy and mania, Rick’s childhood appeared…

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#ThrowbackThursday Dorothea’s War: A First World War Nurse Tells her Story (edited by Richard Crewdson)

Not one of my own reviews, but as this falls under memoir, I think it’s something I would definitely want to read myself! Thank you @MrsBloggsReader!

Mrs Bloggs The Average Reader

Throwback Thursday is a meme hosted by Renee at It’s Book Talk where we post older reviews or reviews of backlisted books. I first posted this review back in October 2016. Since that time the book has had a new and effective cover.

• Publication date: 13 Jun 2013

• Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson

Blurb

The evocative diaries of a young nurse stationed in northern France during the First World War, published for the first time. A rare insight into the great war for fans of CALL THE MIDWIFE.

In April 1915, Dorothea Crewdson, a newly trained Red Cross nurse, and her best friend Christie, received instructions to leave for Le Tréport in northern France. Filled with excitement at the prospect of her first paid job, Dorothea began writing a diary. ‘Who knows how long we shall really be out here? Seems a good chance from all reports of the…

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Memoir review: The Sat Nav Diaries by Adrian Sturrock

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This book first came to my attention on the We Love Memoirs group when I read a review someone else had written. It sounded like my kind of read, so I downloaded a sample to see if it would appeal to me. Well, I loved Adrian Sturrock’s humour from the first few pages, so I bought the whole book.

The Sat Nav Diaries is a driving travelogue, pure and simple. However, what makes it so compelling is the relationship between the author and his wife, which is portrayed with tremendous wit and self deprecating humour as they make their way in their Mazda Miata through some of Europe’s loveliest scenery and cities. Nat, Adrian’s wife is feisty and fun, but also kind and rather sweet. Adrian, the author, talks plenty of amusing nonsense, but it’s well peppered with smart remarks and the dialogue between the pair is sharp and entertaining. There is also a good balance between the personal, the historical and purely descriptive parts of the travelogue, so I had a great sense of being in the back seat (not that there is one in a Miata) listening to them banter, learning about the cities and watching the gorgeous scenery roll by.

Another aspect of the book I liked is that there are some great scenes involving the people they met along the way, which make lovely vignettes and add variety to what is otherwise a very personal account. The only slight disappointment was that I was expecting the Satnav (Bernice) to have a bit more say in the story. She pops up now and then to frustrate things, but I thought she would be still more of a divisive ‘personality’. Still, maybe that was just my expectations getting in the way.

All told, this is a very well written, funny and heart warming memoir. It could do with a bit of a spell check to smooth out some typos and errors in some of the place names, but while I couldn’t help noticing them, it didn’t spoil it for me.  I’ve given it 4.5 stars and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys travel books with humour.

The link to the book is here

The Kindle version is currently selling at $3.99